Wednesday Easter 5 – 2017

May 17, 2017  
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Hebrews 11:1
John 14:1-14

As I read from Hebrews, it is written “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Faith is something we talk a lot about. That’s the point of being here, right? We are here because we have faith… faith in God. Faith in the triune God: Father, son, and Holy Spirit.

Although we talk a lot about faith, and about what we have faith in… we might be assuming we really know what faith IS.

The easy answer is that faith is belief. You or I or we believe something to be true. When our beliefs are based on facts, they are easy to prove and so easy to have. (At least when we are basing beliefs on facts that are actually facts…)

When we believe in something that is not based on facts, that is not provable scientifically or logically, we have what I call faith.

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Faith is a matter of the heart. For example, I have faith in my spouse.

Faith is a matter of the soul. For example, I have faith that there is more to life than just our physical selves.

Faith is a matter of trust. For example, I trust you are here today because you believe in the triune God. I have faith in your presence.

An example of a belief: I believe airplanes can fly. I see them fly over my house several times a day. I have ridden in them.

An example of faith: I have faith in the pilots who fly planes. When I step on a plane I trust the pilot will get me, and everyone else, safely to our destination.

“Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Years ago, right after Christmas, I was visiting my twin sister’s family. At that time they lived in a house in Rockford, IL. The family room of the house was added on over the garage. To get into the family room from the living room we had to go down a short flight of steps.

My nephew, who was 2 ½ at the time told me he wanted to fly. He didn’t mean he wanted to fly in an airplane, he meant he wanted to fly. Then he turned around, climbed up that short flight of stairs that went into the family room, and stood, waiting to jump.

He told me to stand at the bottom of the stairs. I was supposed to catch him.

My nephew and I had never played this “flying” game before. He had no idea I would actually catch him. He knew I could carry him. And he knew I loved him. With that knowledge, he had faith I would catch him. And so he jumped. And I caught him.

Life demands faith. Faith in others. Faith in ourselves. Faith in God.

Jesus said “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me.”

He said those words to the disciples. The disciples had already given up everything to follow Jesus: careers, families, comforts, security. All they had left in their lives was a Call to follow Jesus. When Jesus said “Let not your hearts be troubled” he had just told them he was leaving them. Of course their hearts were troubled! They didn’t know where he was going. They wanted to go where he was going. After all, they had a Call, to follow him.

It seemed Jesus was talking in riddles. He was going to his “Father’s house.” They didn’t know the way to his Father’s house.
You know the Father. You have seen him” No, they hadn’t seen him.
So they said “Show us.”

Show us.
We need to see before we believe.

Do we?

Do we need to see before we believe? Or do we have faith?

We are here because of our faith, our faith in God.

Because we have faith in God, Jesus believed and believes: we will do great things.

Great things.

The greatest of which is to love one another. As we have been loved. We believe in the love of God.  We have faith in Jesus Christ.

May God’s Spirit empower us to love as we have been loved.

Amen.

Easter 5 – 2017

May 14, 2017  
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John 14:1-14

The women were playing softball.
It was the bottom of the 7th – the last inning of the game – an we were down by one.
The game was the 2nd game of a double-header and we wanted to win but we were down by one and it was the bottom of the 7th inning. The pressure was on.
There was one out.
One out, the bottom of the 7th, down by one, AND THE BASES WERE LOADED.

Our designated hitter stepped up to the plate. She raised right hand in the air (as she did at every at bat). She placed the tip of the bat on the far corner of the plate. She scrunched her feet into position at the side of the plate. She held the bat just over her right shoulder and she looked at the pitcher.

The pitcher looked at the catcher. She nodded her head. She swung her right arm into her wind-up, pitching the ball.

Our designated hitter stepped into the pitch, swinging.

She connected. The ball sailed. The ball FLEW over the center-fielder’s head, and over the fence.

She hit a gram slam homerun at the bottom of the 7th, with our team down by one. We won the game, up by three.

It was the designated hitter’s 20th birthday.

It was poetry.

That story remains one of my favorite stories from when I was college pastor at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska. When I remember that day I still feel the tension, I still feel the adrenaline. I still hear the screams and see the joy of the players.

Today is Mother’s Day. (And the 5th Sunday in the season of Easter… for those tracking the Church calendar.)

There are women here today who became mothers a long time ago. There are women here today who have never been mothers, they might have longed to, they might have never really had that dream. There are women here who just became mothers. There are women here for whom motherhood has been difficult, challenging, painful-filled, a frustration. There are women here who have lost their children. There are women here who have tried to have children, and tried, but so far not succeeded. There are women here who are step-mothers. There are women here for whom motherhood was or is the absolutely best thing that ever happened to them.

There are men and women here who love their mothers. There are men and women here who suffered because of things their mothers did or chose not to do. There are men and women here who are estranged from their mothers. There are men and women, children here who live with their mothers, or mothers in law, or grandmothers.

Knowing all of this diversity exists, what do I say on this Mother’s Day? I say: Women—you rock.
Even in those moments when you feel you are at your worst, or weakest—you rock.
WE rock!

When life seems stacked against you, you are down by one in the 7th inning and the pressure is on: you rock! Even if you don’t manage to hit a grand slam homerun. The fact that you are here, you are trying to be the best woman you can be, means you rock!

Jesus said “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”
As Christians we hear this call, we know this call, we live this call to love.

Today is a day when we remember, specifically, the women in our lives who have honored that call to love. We love them. We give thanks to God for them. We celebrate their graciousness. We admire their determination. We honor their strength.

I know, not every woman, not every mother is always gracious, or always determined, or always strong. I also know, every woman is always loved by God. And forgiven. And embraced.

As is every man. Every person. Every child.

For this I say: Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter 4 – 2017

May 7, 2017  
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John 10:1-10

I have never really liked the whole “Jesus as the Good Shepherd” metaphor.
I grew up with the image; my home congregation is the Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd. When I was a pastor up in Houghton, MI the church I served was Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. Although I loved both churches, I was never fond of the metaphor… mostly because, if Jesus was (or is) the Good Shepherd, that makes us sheep.

I am not a lamb, or a sheep, or a ewe (E-W-E)…
I have no desire to think of myself as a cute little lamb mindlessly following my shepherd from field to field, with no knowledge of what it means to be free. If I’m going to be a lamb I want to be the one that runs off to the other side of the field if I want to run off to the other side of the field.

I value my freedom. You probably do to. Which makes a metaphor that has us being led around by a shepherd who has a staff in his hand, ready to whack us with it if we step away from the herd—distasteful. I know—it doesn’t say anywhere in the reading that Jesus is going to whack us with a staff. But still… my point is, we value our freedom.

In the year 1523 Martin Luther wrote a sermon on this text. (www.trinitylutheranms.org) Luther wrote that these verses from the 10th chapter of John are about freedom, they are about liberty, they are not about blindly following a tyrannical shepherd.

Luther said (in his sermon) Here (in this story from John) Christ speaks about Christian liberty. Luther said Let us see to it that we allow the pure Word of God to take its course, and afterward leave them (the sheep) free to follow.

Luther believed the Word of God has the power to reach into our lives, to reach into our hearts and draw us to God. We don’t need to be coerced, or forced, or threatened into believing.

Luther said (in his sermon) Christ’s wish is that none be forced, but that they be permitted to follow from willing hearts and of their own desire; not out of fear, shame, or strife. He (God) would let the Word go forth and accomplish all.

Luther clearly states in his sermon that our hearts are free. That God desires our hearts be free. In fact, this section of Luther’s sermon is sub-titled “Preachers are to Force No One to Believe.”

Luther had that much confidence in the power of the Word of God.

In the first chapter of the gospel of John, the first words are “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.”

What we have here is a play on words… because we have the written Word which reaches into our hearts, and we have the Word that was and is God… Jesus Christ.
Jesus reaches into our hearts. Jesus draws us toward him, toward his light, toward his love.

Jesus said “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture” (John 10:9). This is where Luther finds our freedom, in our ability to come in and go out as we search. There is no shepherd whacking us on the back with his staff, trying to keep us in line. We can walk through the gate, going in… or we can walk through the gate, going out.  Liberty is ours.

Luther had that much confidence in the power of the Word of God.

The Word of God has the power to grab us by the heart and change us, drawing us in.
Preachers don’t need to grab people by the arm, or the nose, or the ear, dragging them into a life of faith. The Word grabs us.

And so Luther said “let us see to it that we allow the Word of God to take its course, and afterward leave them (us) free to follow.”

It might be the boldest statement of faith I have ever heard. Luther’s belief in God is so strong, so full, so complete… he trusted God. He trusted God’s ability to reach us, to touch us, to change our hearts.

There is another side to this, Luther also believed in people. He believed in our ability to make the right choices. He knew we aren’t sheep, blindly or meekly following a shepherd. He recognized that we have a choice when we are confronted by the gospel, by the Word. He trusted us to make the right choice.

The Word of God is a Word of love. Luther knew love to be something everyone desires. When given the choice, when having the freedom to choose—he believed we would choose love.

God loves us. God loves the world.
What a wonderful thing—to be free to experience such love.

Amen.

Easter – 2017

April 16, 2017  
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Matthew 28:1-10

“Do not be afraid.”
“He has been raised from the dead.”
“Go and tell.”

Fourteen words that changed the world.

“Do not be afraid.”
“He has been raised from the dead.”
“Go and tell.”

It was after the Sabbath. In the hazy gray-ness of dawn, the light just beginning to shine, the two Marys went to see the tomb.
They did not go to see the body of Jesus—they went to see the tomb. Just as we go to cemeteries to visit the graves of those we love, buried there, Mary and Mary went to see the tomb of Jesus.

Suddenly there was a great earthquake.
There had been an earthquake just days earlier, when Jesus died. Now, again the earth began to shake. The stone covering the front of the tomb where Jesus was supposed to be laying rolled away, opening the tomb. The women saw an angel of the Lord descending from heaven, coming down from heaven like lightening. The angel sat on the stone that had rolled away. The angel’s clothing was white as snow.
Who was he?

“Do not be afraid” the angel said.

The guards, big strong men there to protect the tomb from grave robbers, were afraid. They were so afraid they began to shake and then “became like dead men”—which, I think, means they fainted.

“Do not be afraid.”

Why not be afraid? There was an earthquake! The stone rolled away. An angel dressed in white descended from heaven like lightening. Yes, be afraid!

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary listened to the angel.

“Do not be afraid. I know you are looking for Jesus. He is not here. He has been raised from the dead. Come and see. Then go. Go quickly and tell his disciples.”

Do you think Mary and the other Mary heard anything beyond those words “”He is not here…?”
Maybe they heard the part where the angel said “He has been raised from the dead.”

“So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy…”
Yes, they were afraid.
Yes, there was great joy. Jesus was alive!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Do you think Mary and the other Mary needed the angel to tell them to go and tell? Wouldn’t you have wanted to run and tell everyone—everyone who loved him. Everyone who cared. Everyone he told he would be back but who probably never believed it…

Yes! Go! Tell!  He is alive!

Then suddenly!!! Suddenly!!! There he was! Jesus! Standing right there, in front of them!

“Greetings!”

Greetings?!?! You were dead! You were dead, Jesus! Now you are alive!

They must have fallen at his feet. Luke writes “They came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him.”

Do you think they were crying? I think they were crying. I think they covered his feet with their tears.

Then, those words again: “Do not be afraid.”

Are you kidding?!?! You were dead! You were dead, Jesus! Now you are alive!

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Jesus speaks to us: Go and tell. Go and tell.
In the year 2017, the message is the same. Go and tell. Go and tell others who Jesus was, who Jesus is, why you worship Jesus. Go and tell others, “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Go and tell others, “Jesus loves you.” Because he does. Jesus loves us all; Jesus loves the world.
Go and tell others.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Amen!

 

Good Friday – 2017

April 14, 2017  
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Matthew 27:45-53

Darkness covered the whole land. Which was odd because it was the middle of the day.
Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Even his words were dark…
Jesus felt forsaken. Renounced. Abandoned.

The darkness was for us.

His words still ring with agony. We hear the despair. We hear his suffering.
And then we know that despair ourselves, we suffer—because we know this all happened for us.

The sins of the world were on his shoulders. The sins of the world brought darkness, an all-encompassing darkness. A darkness that screamed for light.
God saw the world living in darkness and brought Jesus to the darkness to be the light.

People heard Jesus cry out. People knew he suffered. People struggled to help him, offering a sponge soaked in wine to wet his lips. But they couldn’t stop his pain. They could not end his suffering.

He cried out again, again with a loud voice.
Then he breathed his last. He entered the darkness.
For us he died.

And the earth shook. The curtain in the temple was torn, ripping from top to bottom what had, until that moment, separated all but the most holy from coming near the sign of God’s covenant with God’s people.
God’s promise, God’s covenant, was to be with the people of Israel, to protect them, to love them, to be their God forever.

But then darkness fell, Jesus died, the earth shook and a new covenant was born.
This new covenant was with all people. It was a new promise. For God so loved the world…

For God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, so that everyone who believed, everyone who believes in him might not perish but have eternal life.

This is the light of Christ. This is the light that shatters the darkness. The darkness cannot overcome it.

Darkness fell because of us, because of the darkness that lives in human hearts. Jesus cried out into the darkness of Good Friday.
His pain was ours. His despair was ours. He carried his pain and despair for us, so that we would never know the agony of being forsaken. He died in order to free us from the darkness of death.

We re-member the death of Jesus today. Our sacrificial lamb.
We relive the darkness.

But then, we know, there was light.

Amen.

 

 

Maundy Thursday – 2017

April 13, 2017  
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John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Lent has now ended.
Holy Week is upon us.

Today we remember: Jesus offers us absolution—he offers us forgiveness, he offers us pardon, he offers us release from the guilt we might feel because of our sin. As we celebrate communion—we receive his sacrifice of body and blood.

Today we remember just how much Jesus loves us as we eat the bread and drink the wine.

In Psalm 116 it is written:
The danger of death is all around me; the horrors of the grave closed in on me; I was filled with fear and anxiety. Then I called to the Lord, “I beg you, Lord, save me!”

We have been saved from death, by the death and resurrection of Jesus.

And so we receive a new commandment. Jesus said
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

On Monday our Hebrew brothers and sisters celebrated the Festival of the Passover. At Passover, families gather from near and far, sharing a simple feast of roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs. It is a time to remember the first Passover, when God saved the Chosen People from bitter suffering. A plague was upon the land, killing the firstborn of every family. Lamb’s blood was painted above the doorway of each Hebrew family’s house so the plague would not affect their families. They were, literally, passed over.

Jesus, our sacrificial lamb, protects us. He protects us from the consequences of sin. Our sin.

And he tells us to love one another.

The Maundy Thursday liturgy used to carry these instructions, to be read to the congregation:

Within the community of God’s church, God never wearies of giving peace and new life. In the words of absolution we received forgiveness from God. This absolution we should never doubt, but firmly believe…
We who receive God’s love in Jesus Christ are called to love one another, to be servants to each other as Jesus became our servant…
I
t is, however, in Holy Communion that the members of Christ’s body participate most intimately in his love.  (LBW)

May we know Christ’s love, today.
May we share God’s love, today.
May we live God’s love—each and every moment of our lives.

Amen.

Palm Sunday – 2017

April 9, 2017  
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Matthew 27:11-54

There is a tension to this Sunday—a tension mirrored in its identify as both the Sunday of the Passion and as Palm Sunday.

There is no other day in the church year quite like today.

Today we move from a jubilant celebration of the triumphant entry Jesus made into Jerusalem to the story of his death. The movement is dramatic. It is tense.

From palms to Passion.
From celebration and honor and praise to death on a cross.
From King to suffering servant.
From glory to humiliation.

Our Processional Gospel was full of glory and triumph.
A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of [Jesus] and that followed were shouting “hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Later in the day the people were silenced.
Only days later the disciples forsook Jesus, abandoning him to their enemies.
Only days later, Peter denied Jesus not once, not twice, but three times.
Only days later Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss.
Only days later the crowds who had screamed hosannas to Jesus cried out to Pilate, begging him to crucify Jesus.

From praise to Passion.
From glory to Golgotha.
From honor to humiliation.
From hosannas to jeers and curses.

This day is a doorway, opening the way of the cross.
This day we feel the tension of “the way.”

In a way, when Jesus rode into Jerusalem he was laying down a gauntlet. His entrance was royal, it was extravagant, his entrance was holy.
All these years later—we re-create his entrance, expressing our own words of praise and thanksgiving, our own hosannas, honoring Jesus as our royal leader.
There is always a sense of excitement about Palm Sunday. There is such joy. Such happiness.
We can get lost in those hosannas, overlooking the challenge of the parade. As I said, Jesus laid down a gauntlet. He was challenging religious leaders when he declared the kingdom of God was at hand. He was threatening them with his own power.
All her did was ride into town on a colt. A borrowed colt. Yet his ride into town ushered in his reign of love. Without him saying a word. His kingdom was and is a kingdom more powerful than any other earthly authority.
The religious leaders of Jerusalem felt the threat of that power. They were afraid.

And so they manipulated events to have Jesus killed.

Jesus knew he would die. Jesus knew no earthly death had the power to end his reign as ruler of the universe. Jesus knew the actions of the leaders of Jerusalem guaranteed his own victory.

By crucifying Jesus, his enemies gave him new life.
Such is the irony beneath the irony of the day.

We began our service with hosannas and praise. The hosannas and praise didn’t bring about Jesus’ victory.
He found victory in death.

We can only survive the horror of knowing Jesus died by knowing his death brought victory over evil. Victory over sin. And salvation for us all.

We know next Sunday is Easter. We rest in the assurance of that day even as we remember Jesus journey toward the cross.
We re-member his death, knowing his death brought us all the promise of eternal life.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Lent 5 – 2017

April 5, 2017  
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Luke 23: 26-28

In these verse, we find Jesus walking to his death. The instrument of his death, the cross, was being carried by another man, Simon. Simon walked behind Jesus. Led by soldiers, followed by mourners, Jesus and Simon were walking to Jesus’ death.

The mourners loved Jesus.

They had been there, at his trial. They had been there to see him receive 39 lashes, wounding his back. They had been there to see a crown of thorns pressed down over his head. Now they accompanied him, walking behind him to Calvary. To his death.

Jesus said: Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.

Jesus knew that they would suffer more, those mourning women. Even as he walked to his certain death, he cared about them, and about others. As he hung on the cross, Jesus prayed to God, asking for forgiveness for his enemies. As he hung dying on the cross, Jesus assured the penitent thief hanging next to him that he would be in paradise. As he hung dying on the cross, Jesus worried about his mother.

The death and resurrection of Jesus have not ended suffering in our world. Jesus promises us forgiveness, Jesus promises us love, Jesus promises us new life—but there is no promise of an end to suffering.

What we know in our suffering is that Jesus is with us. Jesus is loving us. Jesus hopes for us.

World-wide, over 8,700 children under the age of five die of starvation every day. It is estimated there are 1.7 million homeless adolescents in the United States. It is estimated that a child, by the age of 18, has seen 200,000 acts of violence on tv. 75% of employees in the United States steal from their employers. There are businesses now offering conferences on church security, conferences that include sessions on having armed guards and on the need for terrorism protection.

Daughters of Jerusalem, don’t weep for me but weep for yourselves and for your children.”

Jesus doesn’t want our tears to be for him, he wants them to be for the world. Even then, tears aren’t enough a response. We need to do something.

Jesus calls us to obedience. Our obedience is manifest in the love we have for others. For the starving. For the homeless. For victims of violence. For people who live in fear.  For each other. For our neighbors. For ourselves.

Amen.

 

 

 

Lent 5 – 2017

April 2, 2017  
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Ezekiel 37:1-14

The Israelites were living in exile. They were far from home, far from Jerusalem. They were lonely. They were homesick. They were suffering.

Into Israel’s suffering walked a prophet: Ezekiel.

In the 20th century we might have called Ezekiel a “new age” kind of guy. He had visions. He dreamed dreams. Ezekiel would go into a trance like state, sitting motionless for hours, not speaking to anyone, not hearing anything, focused on his dreams. He had visions.

You might remember the song: Ezekiel saw a wheel, way up in the middle of the air…”
The song describes one of his Visions. As does our first reading. You heard the story read. You heard me tell the story again. You heard how Ezekiel heard bones rattling and saw them migrate together, with muscle growing on them and skin growing to cover the muscle. You heard how the wind blew, bringing the bones to life…

The vision was a message from God. Ezekiel believed all of his visions, all of his dreams were messages from God. Because he believed his visions were from God—the Israelites believed they were messages from God. They believed Ezekiel was a prophet.

God spoke many things to Ezekiel; God spoke to Ezekiel about God’s judgment. God spoke to Ezekiel about hope. God made promises to Ezekiel, promises of new life for the Israelites. Ezekiel shared these dreams with the Israelites. He warned them they were being judged because of their sins. He promised them they would receive new life. Ezekiel promised the Israelites they would return home…

In Ezekiel 33:32 it is written that, to the Israelites living in exile, Ezekiel’s preaching was like a love song. The Israelites loved to hear Ezekiel speak. They didn’t always do what Ezekiel told them to do, but they listened. They needed to hear what Ezekiel was saying. It gave the Israelites hope.

The Israelites exile was a time of despair. So, when they heard Ezekiel speak about a valley full of dry dead bones, they saw themselves. They were despondent. They were lifeless. When they heard Ezekiel say that the bones began to rattle, they felt their own spirits shake with new life. When they heard the bones coming together, with muscles forming, and skin growing, they saw themselves coming together as a people. When they heard Ezekiel describe a mighty wind blowing through the valley they felt the wind blowing them, reviving them, revitalizing them.

Ezekiel’s dreams and visions gave the Israelites hope in a time of despair, in a time when God seemed distant, maybe God seemed gone. Ezekiel brought God back to the Israelites.

Each of you, and I may have had times of despair, may be feeling despair in this time, might feel despair in the future… we might feel like those dry dead bones. We might believe we have been abandoned by God. We might think life is dry, life is barren, life is brittle, life is empty. Or we might experience God as being far from us. Distant. Away.

There are times in life when we need someone to breathe life into us, when we need someone to rattle our bones and wake us from our despair.

God gives life to lifeless people. Every day. As baptized Christians we have the power given to us by God—to wake every day cleansed, to wake every day forgiven.

As baptized children of God promises us each day we live is a new day, a hopeful day, a day of love and light.
Look around you. See the signs of life that exist in this place. See the signs of life that live in your homes, in your schools, in the places you work. See people helping other people. Hear the laughter of children, the laughter of friends and family. Look outside and see the grass greening. See the rivers flowing. Hear the birds singing. Discover the flowers rising out of the ground, reaching toward the light.

Experience the new life that comes when you are part of a community of faith, such as the community we have here. This gathering of people can be, this gathering of people is your family of faith. These people can be, they are your sisters and brothers.

Ezekiel believed God would give new life to the Israelites. This promise is a promise given to us. God breathes new life into this place, God breathes new life into all of us as we gather. The new life God gives us frees us to give life to others, breathing God’s love and light out into the world. God’s gifts of love and new life free us to love, to share signs of new life with others.

May it be so, God.

Let it be so.

Amen.

Wednesday Lent 4 – 2017

March 29, 2017  
Filed under Sermons

John 16:16-24

I’ve been trying to imagine what it was like when I was born.
My mom is a short woman. She says she always looked enormous when she was pregnant because she had such a tiny frame. When she had me, she wasn’t with child she was with children—twins.
I imagine her near the end of that pregnancy, sitting in a chair, her unborn twins filling her lap. I imagine my older brother, only one years old at the time, trying to climb in her lap but not being able to, because there was no room for him. I imagine him crying. I imagine my older sister, only three, running to comfort him, falling down, and starting to cry. I imagine my mother wanting to cry herself, wondering how in the world she was going to cope with four children three and under.
I imagine the pain of her labor—pun intended—my sister and I were born on Labor Day.

Jesus told the disciples:
When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.

When a child or children come into the world, when a child or children come into a family, whether by birth or by adoption, most often there is joy. There are smiles, there is laughter, there is hope. There is love.

Then the child, the children grow and struggles and arguments and rebellions and misunderstandings and disappointments and feelings of guilt or failure mix in with the joys and the hopes and the laughter.

All of this speaks well to our relationship with God.
God brought us all into this world, birthing us. God brought us into a world filled with suffering and joy, pain and pleasure, distance and intimacy. And God promises us, in the midst of this chaotic tumble of life experiences, we will never be alone.

No matter what we do. No matter who we grow up to be—no matter our choices, no matter our mistakes, no matter our talents, no matter anything we neglect or forget or withhold or refuse—God promises us we will never be alone.

Jesus told the disciples he would be leaving them. They would see him. Then they would not see him. Then they would see him again. It seemed like a riddle. It was a warning. I’m going to go. It is going to hurt. But I will return. And there will be joy again.

There is joy. There is love.
God our heavenly Creator brought us into this world. God is with us every moment of our lives. God ushers us out—into life eternal.
There are tears of joy. There are tears of pain. Through it all God is with us.

Amen.

 

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